Thursday, October 25, 2007

Acoustic-based, light country recordings of mostly classic Christmas songs

The Star Still Shines
Artist: Diamond Rio (www.diamondrio.com)
Label: Word Records
Length: 12 tracks/38:48 minutes

Together since 1984, The Star Still Shines is country group Diamond Rio’s first Christmas release and their first project on Word Records, the group’s new label. They may be a stranger to much of Word’s customer base, but not to the rest of the music world.

The band achieved major success in the 90’s performing a mix of modern country, traditional bluegrass (especially with respect to their harmonies) and a hint of rock and roll. Their 1991 self-titled platinum debut was the forerunner for a series of number one and top ten hits.

This release features pleasant acoustic recordings of mostly classic Christmas songs done with a light country flavor. It’s a little light on spiritual content with only three of twelve songs dealing with Christian themes. This consists of two carols, "O Come, O Come Emmanuel" and "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing," and the title cut, which is an excellent original song that will most likely get significant radio time.

The classics are well-done and include "Christmas Time is Here"—a song many know from "A Charlie Brown Christmas." The CD ends with an instrumental from the same program.
In addition to the title song, the group shines on "Christmas Times A Comin’," a bluegrass gem. This is so good that I wished they had incorporated more of this style.

Throughout the CD the most delightful bits are the scattered instrumental solos and interludes that make the songs more distinctive. It’s a pleasure to hear the mandolin and the other acoustic instruments. The vocals and harmonizing are strong and fit well with the music.

It will be more than a little interesting to see what they do on future Word releases. Will they delve more deeply into explicitly Christian themes like they do on the title song? It would be great to hear more of their bluegrass side.

This is a fine introduction from a talented band to Word’s customer base.
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